Solving The Read Aloud Blues

read aloud blues

Kitchen Scene: Mom and Dad are getting dinner ready after a busy day. Soccer practice is in 45 minutes. Enter six-year-old with book. 

“Mom! Dad! I have to read ten pages out loud to you tonight for homework!” 

Mom and Dad look at each other and sigh. 

Perhaps you have sat painfully listening to your child painfully read out loud.

You also might remember reading circles when you were in elementary school.

“But that’s how we learn to read!” you say. “How can we be sure our child is learning to read if we don’t listen to him read? It’s our job as parents.”

Understanding the process of reading can help you feel confident that there is a better way to help your children than to sit and listen to them haltingly and painfully read out loud to you.

If your child loves to read out loud and it is not a painful process, that is wonderful for both of you.

I still think you will learn something by continuing to read this article.

Reading out loud is an expressive dramatic skill that requires the use of many skills simultaneously. To read out loud fluently, you have to take in a lot of printed matter at one time, mentally interpret the meaning and emotion, and then express it verbally. That’s a lot for six-year-old or a sixty-year-old.

Research has shown that the difference in the time for the brain to process the printed word in a fluent and non-fluent reader is 1/100th of a second. Just because the brain is processing 1/100 second slower, reading becomes halting and exhausting.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Encourage your child to develop expressive language through singing, memorization of poems and bible verses, plays, etc. Work on the receptive and decoding skills needed by encouraging writing. At some point the two skills will overlap, and your child will become a wonderful expressive reader, painlessly.

Reading for meaning and understanding is a receptive language skill. Most of us have a larger “listening” and “reading” vocabulary than we have a “spoken” vocabulary. As we listen and read, we pick up contextual clues that take practice and time to help us interpret the meaning.

You’ve probably had the experience of reading something or listening to a speech and feeling no difficulty in understanding what was being said. The challenge comes when someone then asks you to say it in your own words. That is the difference between receptive and expressive reading skills.

There are two activities you can do to solve the read-aloud blues; encourage writing and creating meaningful reading experiences.

The first thing you can do instead of having your child read out loud, is to encourage him or her to write every day.

This writing can be a letter to family, copying from their reading book, copying a poem, their own writing, Bible verses, etc.  Keep your children writing instead of reading out loud.

Reading aloud for the new reader is a lot like being asked to tell something in your own words.  Writing is going to allow the child the time to process the information and make for deeper and more meaningful understanding of what is being read. Writing is also a form of expressive language, but without the dramatic interpretation.

The second thing you can do is to create meaningful reading experiences for your child.

You can do this by writing daily notes to your child. Also, help them memorize and recite poems and bible verses. The young child from age three to six has a tremendous capacity to memorize spoken language. Choose some meaningful literature and encourage memorization. How much better to memorize the 23rd Psalm instead of some commercial jingle.

For the new reader create a set of “action” cards on 3×5 index cards.

Action cards will help create deeper reading understanding by involving the whole person. Make a set of ten to twenty cards with one action per card, and place them in a small basket. At the beginning level, the actions will be just one word with words like jump, hop, sit, stand, skip, sing, smile, stop, run, walk.

Invite your child to take the basket of cards, read the activity silently, and then go and do it. You will know that she knows what she is reading when you see her jump, hop, and skip when following the action cards.

The next step would be to give three word actions like:

get a drink, giggle out loud, set the table, wash a glass, eat a cookie, fix a snack, sing a song, ask a question, make a bed, sweep the floor, draw a bug, play a game, get the cards.

Keep these action cards in a small basket in your kitchen and add to them every few days. Your child will ask you when he doesn’t understand a word. You’ll know he or she is reading when you see them doing the activity. Be sure to add some fun, yummy, or silly actions into the set of cards.

You can keep adding actions until they get quite complex, such as:

Go to the window. Rub your finger along the sill. If you think there is too much dust, please dust the windowsill with a paper towel. If you think that it is not dusty, please tell me that the windowsill is clean. 

When you hear “Oh, Mom! Do I really have to dust the window?” you’ll believe they truly are reading.

You’ll have the confidence to know they are reading without enduring the read aloud blues!

Next: How Singing Helps Reading

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11 Responses to “Solving The Read Aloud Blues”

  1. Great reading tips – I love the science behind learning included in articles! As always, your article is a breath of fresh air and a valuable resource for parents and teachers.

  2. I am going to share a link to this and some commentary about it on my blog this weekend. Send me an email and I will let you know when it is updated. Great article!!

  3. This article is a great combination of showing us why current methods to foster good reading habits don’t work, and providing parents with easy-to-implement solutions that really work. Bravo!


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